How Radhe Maa's mini skirt exposes our blind bhakti
Does the self-styled godwoman put sex in satsang or satsang in sex? The jury is still out!
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Are you afraid of Radhe Maa's mini skirt? Or, are you tickled? Tickled enough to declare she's "too cool".
No, that is a serious question.
In case, you have been living under a rock, here's the lowdown on the epiphenomenon that is Radhe Maa. Or, as per her "official" Facebook page: Param Shradhey Shri Radhe Maa. And epiphenomenon because the cultural schizophrenia she has induced in the four-chambered hearts of patriotic Indians, is a secondary symptom of an existing system. You know the system. It bans porn on a good day, then backtracks, albeit not completely.
So, we are told that Radhe Maa is a "famous godwoman", a saint with high-profile devotees, and a fan following among our jagrata-loving, trishul-flaunting crorepatis. You can see them getting off their Land Rovers or BMWs, with their perfectly manicured hands sporting ten gem-stoned rings on ten fingers, if not more. These devotees - who ritually shower lakhs, often crores, to dance next to the Maa at a steamy and sticky satsang; who fly her in on a helicopter to bless a dowry-stricken bride; who don nauseating amount of gold and diamond to enhance their spiritual health - are quite at their wit's end seeing the leaked pictures of their beloved Maa in a little red dress at a shopping mall in Mumbai, "cavorting", to use a words already in circulation, like Bad Santa.Radhe Maa as Sukhvinder Kaur.
Or, are they?
With so many of the house of the Bigg Boss' former inmates, such as Dolly Bindra, Manoj Tiwari being her followers, and with Gajendra Chauhan and Alok Nath among her friends from Astha channel, it is obvious that Radhe Maa "does" religion the way Rakhi Sawant does item numbers.
However, with one crucial difference. Rakhi isn't conning anyone. Radhe Maa is.
Plain and simple, when you see Radhe Maa sporting a short red dress, frolicking around at a shopping mall or restaurant, that is when Sukhvinder Kaur emerges from the elaborate costume drama that is Being Radhe Maa.Sukhvinder Kaur as Radhe Maa.
Being Radhe Maa is about riding the flotsam that is organised religion in its gaudy, spurious, extremely money-hungry avatar. Being Radhe Maa is a flagrant display of how rampant consumerism and frothy cesspool of religion can not only coexist - they actively promote each other. Being Radhe Maa is about having disciples like Dolly Bindra, or Manoj Tiwari, or friends like Gajendra Chauhan and Alok Nath sell rudraksh, gem stones, astrologically-filtered magical solutions on television, fleecing many of their hard-earned money, or more likely, robbing the robbers themselves, the nouveau riche, eternally insecure class with easily disposable, ill-gotten money.
But Radhe Maa is no Robin Hood.
With her trishul, North Indian Hindu fair and lovely goddess/bridal getup and supposed flashy display of designer jewellery, Radhe Maa is the face of the religion industry. So are Ramdev and Asaram, and let me say they are hardly different from this godwoman on whom dowry charges have been slapped by a 32-year-old married woman. That Radhe Maa demands a chopper to bless a bride, eggs on rapacious in-laws to claim more dowry after crores have already been given - is because there is an existent crust of crass, ill-educated, frankly uncouth hardline religionists, which must brazenly exalt Radhe Maa to drill sanctimony into their daily hypocrisies. Radhe Maa's is the sink that drains their ugly money.
So what if a little sex is being mingled with a lot of satsang? So what if Radhe Maa and her disciples' religion is soft porn in the backdrop of Bollywood numbers? So what if she jazzes up jagrata banality with a dash of red of the sleazier variety, with quasi-orgies masquerading as religious congregations? Asaram is allegedly a paedophile sitting atop a Rs10,000-crore empire of conmanship. Ramdev, with his yogic moves and disgustingly misogynist, homophobic rants, is also an entrepreneur of (some version of) Ayurveda. Why wouldn't conning be an equal-opportunity profession?
Of course, it should be. And that is where I have a problem with the reasons for which #RadheMaa is trending on social media. Radhe Maa is a victim of sexism. Of two kinds, in fact.
While regional media, particularly the prurient, putrid Hindi channels that actually carry advertisements of gemstones and rudraksh, are aghast that Radhe Maa, a saint, has been spotted in a short red dress, thereby undoing her saintly avatar, the English-language mainstream media, on the other hand, has somehow discovered an element of "subcultural cool" in the lady in red.
Let me ask: How does wearing a short skirt or not make or unmake someone cool or uncool? Would Hindi newschannels, that are broadcasting on a loop the putrid videos of Radhe Maa with her retinue of B-list disciples, not have a problem with the woman had she not been spotted in the short (read slutty/nymphomaniac) red dress? Would English media have gone berserk and tweeted in favour of her oomph and glamour, had the photos of her in a Bad Santa outfit not been leaked on Twitter?
The godwoman/fraudster has taken everyone for a ride. She knows the dumb religiosity of India's faux spiritual but loaded classes can be amply exploited. She also knows that a hint of glamour and a touch of Givenchy, Dolce and Gabbana, Jimmy Choo will have the so-called liberals eating out of her hands. She knows some women will leap to her defence because salivating at or castigating someone for what she's wearing is plain and simple sexism. She knows that some men will find her sexy enough to forget that at the end of the day, she is just that: a fraudster. (Unless you think godwomen are for real, then please join her satsang!)